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Neighbor’s Curiosity Leads to Helping Foster Care Children

Pasadena Resident Receives Hillsides Lifetime Achievement Award

Pasadena, CA, June 03, 2009 --( With no intention of becoming a full-fledged Hillsides board member, Mark Mertens’ curiosity of Hillsides’ 17-acre campus, which is just below his home, left him with an urge to give back to his community. His natural curiosity has resulted in Hillsides, a foster care children’s charity, honoring him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mertens, owner of an apparel company, began his Hillsides’ philanthropic activities by contacting the director of community resources and donating about forty Disneyland tickets. Since then, Merten’s giving has included new pairs of Converse tennis shoes, clothing for all of the children a couple of times a year, among other things. He has promoted Hillsides’ mission of creating safe places for children to his vendors, asking them to share in his company’s charitable giving. In addition, he supplied Target gift certificates, but with the stipulation that the children spend it to buy gifts for others so they could experience the special satisfaction of giving to others.

“Throughout my time at Hillsides, my gifts have been focused on benefiting the children,” said Mertens.

A neighbor dropping off things for the children turned into an even more active participant in the agency’s operations. In September 2000, Mertens joined Hillsides’ Board of Directors and has since become chair of Hillsides’ Finance Committee, Executive Committee, and was a founder of Youth Moving On, a transitional living housing program for former foster care youth. Seeing it as a great opportunity for personal growth, he accepted this next level of involvement.

“Hillsides is small enough so that the efforts of a single person can have an effect, but large enough so that substantive things can be accomplished,” Mertens said.

And Mertens knows just what that substantive thing is—when he learned from Executive Director John Hitchcock that Hillsides had won the EveryChild Foundation grant that gave the initial impetus to Youth Moving On. “I took one of the dogs for a walk and I stood on the hill overlooking Hillsides and had the wonderful feeling that perhaps no longer would an emancipated child have no place to go.”

To learn more about the foster care children’s charity or how you can volunteer, visit

Contact Information
Marisol Barrios-Jordan
323-254-2274 ext. 274

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